The array of opportunities for Sharjah and Russia to do business was the topic of discussion at a roundtable event organised by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), which took place at Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday.
More than 100 businesspersons and representatives of Sharjah-based Russian companies attended the meeting, which was aimed at boosting bilateral cooperation between Sharjah and the world’s largest country.
Among the issues explored at the networking event were the investment environment in the emirate and the opportunities it offers across all economic sectors. A specific focus was placed on areas in which Russian companies are particularly interested, such as extractive, primary, food and health industries.
Shurooq’s business roundtable saw the participation of His Excellency Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Department of Government Relations in Sharjah; His Excellency Gocha Bauchidze, Consul General of the Russian Federation in Dubai and Northern Emirates; His Excellency Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq; His Excellency Dr. Abdul Aziz Al Muhairi, Director of the Sharjah Health Authority and Mr. Saleh Al Aroud, Chairman of the Russian Business Council board.
His Excellency Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Department of Government Relations in Sharjah, delivered a keynote welcome address at the start of the roundtable, acknowledging the strong similarities between Sharjah and Russia.
“Like Sharjah, Russia places a strong focus on culture, history and the arts. Like Sharjah, Russia is committed to education and knows that innovation is critical in a fast-changing business environment. Sharjah is home to 26,000 students at its universities and is the centre for learning in the UAE. One of the emirate’s flagship developments is AUS Enterprises. Adjacent to American University Sharjah, it nurtures innovative practices to develop human capital and create workers who are equipped with the essential business skills needed to succeed,” he said.
Speaking about the longstanding relationship between Sharjah and Russia, His Excellency Gocha Bauchidze said; “Sharjah hosted the UAE’s first Russian company, which started its operations in 1991. It had the first Russian school and the first Russian hospital. It is also home to the UAE’s largest Russian Orthodox church.”
His Excellency Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, welcomed the Russian businesspersons, saying; “Emirati-Russian relations are a role model for international relations at all levels and in all sectors, including trade, economy and culture. We have a strong community of Russian expatriates living in the UAE and thousands of the country’s citizens visit every year. We welcomed 65 thousand Russian tourists to the UAE in 2014 – a figure that we anticipate to grow with the 124 flights weekly now operating between the two countries.”
“Up to 2015, 607 out of 3,000 registered companies operating in the UAE chose Sharjah as their headquarters, operating primarily from Hamriya Free Zone Authority and Sharjah International Free Zone (SAIF Zone). This reflects the growing business opportunities which Russian investors can enjoy thanks to the existing facilities and services Sharjah has established across its array of free zones and its wider business landscape” Al Sarkal continued.
A key component of the Sharjah-Russian business roundtable was a panel discussion titled ‘Investment Opportunities in Sharjah.’ Designed to shed light on the investment opportunities to be had in its most promising sectors, the discussion also showcased the success stories of Russian companies already established in the emirate.
The roundtable panel included Mr. Mohammed Al Musharrkh, Director of Sharjah FDI at Shurooq; Dr. Abdul Aziz Al Muhairi, Director of the Sharjah Health Authority, Ms. Wafa BalAswad, Marketing Manager of SAIF Zone, Mr. Fahad Shehail, Chief Development Officer of Bee’ah (Sharjah Environment Company) and Mr. Saleh Al Aroud, Chairman of the RUS Aviation (FZE). The panel session was moderated by Mr. Roman Gavrilin, Board Member of the Russian Business Council.
Mohammed Al Musharrkh said; “Sharjah provides an ideal investment environment for Russian companies and Shurooq seeks to both highlight the emirate’s advantages and facilitate the maximum benefits that Russian businesspersons can avail when setting up their operations here. We were delighted to be able to set out our stall in relation to our key sectors, which include Tourism and Leisure, Healthcare, Transport and Logistics, Real Estate and the Environment.”
Dr. Abdul Aziz Al Muhairi, Director of the Sharjah Health Authority, explained the benefits that the Russian companies can receive through investing in Sharjah Healthcare City. “Covering 2.5 million square metres, Sharjah Healthcare City is the most advanced city of its kind in the region. There is a wealth of opportunities for Russian investors seeking to undertake business there, with research by PWC showing that the healthcare will grow by 18 per cent up to 2018. One specific area of interest is ophthalmology. We are aware that Russia is one of the world leaders in eye care expertise and we are keen to establish a Russian centre of excellence for eye care in the region at Sharjah Healthcare City,” he said.
Ms. Wafa Balaswad, Marketing Manager, SAIF Zone, encouraged Russian businesspersons to establish their projects, investments and companies in Sharjah, saying; “SAIF Zone was started in 1995 with just 55 companies. We now have 7,500 enterprises covering all fields operating there. Companies from Russia setting up a business in SAIF Zone can enjoy a tax-free environment, 100 per cent ownership, the perfect strategic location between North Africa and Asia and the ability to repatriate funds at any time with no restriction.”
Finally, Mr. Fahad Shehail, Chief Development Officer from Bee’ah, explained that Sharjah possesses an abundance of investment opportunities in the environmental development sector. “Bee’ah was founded in 2007 with an Emiri decree and is a public private partnership, 50 per cent publically owned and 50 per cent private. Today, we cover virtually all of the UAE; Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and the Eastern emirates. We are aiming to attract investment for our array of new projects which we are starting from next year; these include a compost facility and facilities for recycling plastic, paper and oil,” he said.